Frankenstein Meets His Wife

Friends,

How are you coping with this uncertain time of forced family togetherness and COVID-19 fear?  At least once an hour, my phone lights up with yet another reported case or death from my area.  The daily news conferences from Washington do very little to calm my fears.  Like many of you, I imagine, I am coping by eating carbs, watching movies, walking my dog, feeding my family and occasionally going through an old box looking for a memory to make me laugh, sigh, feel grateful.  That’s where this gem of a story I penned as a child makes its appearance.  

Please indulge me by enjoying a little glimpse in the mind of a child writer and enjoy this delightful tale I hand wrote and stapled into booklet form.  I present to you for your reading entertainment, “Frankenstein Meets His Wife”:

Frankenstein was taking his pet boola boola for a walk one day and he saw the man that invented him so Frankenstein dicided (sic) to go and have a chat but it wasn’t the right man.  This made Frankenstein desperate.  He wanted to see Dr. Frankenstein.  Every day. when monster Frankenstein took his pet boola boola for a walk he would look for Dr. Frankenstein.

A year later Dr. Frankenstein was walking on the same path that monster Frankenstein was on, they both saw each other.  Dr. Frankenstein went to look at monster Frankenstein and monster Frankenstein said “you are the man I have been looking for, for one year. ”  “One year” said Dr. Frankenstein.  “Yes, one year,” monster Frankenstein said.  “Whatever for?” said Dr. Frankenstein.  “Well it gets lonely where I live,” said monster Frankenstein, “and since you did such a good job on me I thought maybe you would invent me a wife.”

“Well I’m very flattered,” said Dr. Frankenstein, “and since you’ve been looking for me for a year she will be ready in one month.”

The days were long for monster Frankenstein and a week went by like a century.  But finally the month was up.  Frankenstein the monster was so excited he bought her a dress.

Dr. Frankenstein called monster Frankenstein and said “today is the day.”  “Oh goody goody,” said monster Frankenstein.  So monster Frankenstein went to meet his wife.  “Her name is Bertha,” said Dr. Frankenstein.  “I love you,” monster Frankenstein said.  “Bertha, I love you,” said monster Frankenstein.  “Thank you,” Dr. Frankenstien said.

“Let’s go home, Bertha.  I have a surprize (sic) for you,” monster Frankenstein said.  When they got home, Bertha said, “Where is my surprize (sic)?”  “Right here,” said monster Frankenstein.  “Oh, I love it,” Bertha said.  “Go try it on,” monster Frankenstein said, “while I get out some beer.”

A few minutes later Bertha came back out and said, “Frankenstein, I only ask one favor.” “What is it, my dear?” Frankenstein said.  “Get me a new dress, this one is about 10 sizes too small!”

And thus ends the beginning of the passionate love affair between monster Frankenstein and his newly created wife, Bertha.  You are welcome.  

 

Thoughts About National Drink Wine Day

This morning as I was going through my Facebook memories (sadly the best compilation  I have of all my recent goings-on socially and in general), I saw a post from 2017 of myself drinking coffee as an act of rebellion against “National Drink Wine Day.”  “Bravo, You,” I said to myself, for I have achieved nothing in my life that didn’t include a little sense of rebellion against authority, status quo, ridiculousness.  What surprised me after a quick Google search was that 3 years later “National Drink Wine Day” is still a thing in America.  This, in spite of the fact that American women age 40 and older are the fastest growing group of alcoholics (or persons with alcohol use disorder, if you prefer) in our country today.  Right along with alcohol use disorder rates of liver disease, cancer and heart disease are rising because of the poisonous levels of toxins we barrage our bodies with when we drink alcohol.  But sure, let’s celebrate that “win” and Rose all day. Or not.

I’m not bashing the right of people to enjoy their wine whenever they want.  Lord knows, struggling to stay sober for the past years, I have learned to accept that people will continue to drink in spite of evidence it is bad for them, just like smoking.  It’s the cultural acceptance of self-sabotage that I don’t accept, hence these brief thoughts from a Woman in Recovery on a national day designated to celebrate what for many of us is simply a sad existence.

Like any revolution, great thinkers and role models are emerging from the non-drinking community.  I am reading Holly Whitaker’s “Quit Like a Woman:  The Radical Choice To Not Drink In a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol” currently.  She compares today’s rising rates of alcohol abusers (binge drinking among women is at an all time high) to the era when Big Tobacco spent massive amounts of advertising dollars to convince consumers cigarette smoking was a safe, adventurous and romantic complement to anyone living a full life.  Our collective thinking has come very far since the “Don Draper”Mad Men  days where drinking and smoking throughout the business day were considered well-deserved rewards for hard work.  Yet alcohol continues to hold a powerful grip on so many of us it is considered a “radical choice” not to drink these days.

I will tell you this, if I had not stopped drinking a bottle of red wine every single day in 2015, I would not have the great life I have today, and I am 100 percent confident my family would not be anywhere near the great shape they are in.  People who quit drinking, even for a couple of weeks, rave about the better sleep and greater clarity they have after just a short time changing their habits.  All I am saying is, I hope you will consider that there are big companies that do not have your best interests at heart that are benefiting from this campaign to celebrate drinking alcohol.  And you don’t have to accept that.  My life is proof of that.  Today I have stronger friendships and a far greater day to day existence that a few years ago when I was “life of the party.”

No substance can substitute a real life, from the highs to the lows.  And it may surprise you to know that, without alcohol doing a number on my blood sugar and energy levels everyday, I am able to think more clearly, stepping back before reacting to everything I experience, and I certainly bounce back from bad days much faster than I did in my drinking days.  I’m not celebrating “National Drink Wine Day” because I have found a much better way to live without wine and I love my life now.

If you care to join me, I’ll be having a quiet cappuccino this afternoon in a warm and sunny spot to celebrate the Resistance to National Drink Wine Day.  All the cool kids are sober.

This Fortress of Mine Called Daughter

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I remember the day, at only 5 months old, you were sitting on the kitchen counter in your bouncy seat and forming the word “Mama!” with your determined little face.  Nobody believed me when I later bragged about this but you and I knew and that was all that mattered.

You became the little girl who always wanted to help Mommy.  You took my chicken-scrawled grocery lists and carefully and lovingly re-wrote them before heading out to Hy-Vee on a quest for Gogurt and bagels.

You were also fond of declarative statements.  Many of them notable.  As a toddler, when your Daddy would walk in from work and ask you how your day had been, you usually responded, “I didn’t have a day!” with great conviction.  With Mom, your declarations were often about really important things you needed to do, like the day you came to me and said, “I want to dance!”.  Thus began one of many journeys led by your indomitable spirit.

You were always very quick to pick up on stress or tension in the house and, in your own loving way, offered help.  At only age 9, when Mom and Dad were very burdened with the weight of selling our dream house and picking up roots to the unknown, you quietly and efficiently followed the “Staging Lady” from room to room in our beautiful house and took careful notes about the work to be done.  That’s who you are, Dear Girl, the one who can take up the sword and fight for your loved ones when they need it most and without expecting anything in return.  This past Easter, when your teenaged brother was grieving terribly the death of a friend, you lightened everybody’s load with your surprise visit from college.  You matter-of-factly parked your car in the driveway and walked up to me, I’ll never forget how I was planting begonias to mark and remember Mario’s friend.  Your presence is a fortress to those in need, My Dear. You marched right into the house and just quietly began doing normal things but in a way your family knew you were there to support us in our time of need.

And most recently, Sweet Girl, you gave your Momma a weighted blanket for Christmas.  I am not surprised you were the one who listened to me and addressed this need so lovingly.  You know I am not bold like you are yet this does not disappoint or frighten you and how I love you for it.

Now you are on the brink of adulthood and life is showing your Dad and me you are prepared.  I will spend the rest of my days in gratitude for the wonder that is you, my precious Isabella Bernadette.  Your Grandpa summed you up correctly at a very young age and it is to our complete delight watching his prediction unfold.  He said, “That little girl is going to call the shots every step of the way.” And you have and we hope you always will.  I love you, Daughter.

I Just Want My Plush Towel and Other Holiday Reflections

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It’s been awhile.  The last time I wrote was last May as my son was leaving the house to finish his senior year of High School.  A pretty big day at our house and any parent’s.  It took me a few months to get my grounding after that day.  Going from 18 continuous years of round the clock parenting to a sudden and immediate “layoff” is quite a jolt and I was terrified I might never regain a sense of purpose.  So I found a volunteer gig and a new mantra, something like, “Guide Me,” grounding words I would repeat throughout the day every time I felt a new wave of panic rising.

Where to begin?  When you have poured your heart and soul into two human beings who are ready to launch into the world and the thought of moving forward terrifies you, how do you start?  Fortunately, I have had really good experiences volunteering in the past and it is something I am comfortable doing and my husband was supportive of me doing instead of looking for a paying job right away.  So I had a wonderful summer helping a local rehabilitative organization as a volunteer at a summer camp for developmentally challenged adolescents build executive functioning skills.  Ability KC is one of my favorite places because they support individuals and families of all ages and abilities to recover from debilitating injuries or conditions and regain strength and resilience.  As a person in recovery from alcohol addiction, building resilience is something I feel very passionate about.  So I started taking steps forward in my life and trusted God and the Universe to “Guide Me.”

Summer went by quickly and I built connections with the darling camp kids.  I learned massive amounts from the 20- and 30- something physical and occupational therapists running the camp.  I found that, as always, I had been planted in exactly the right place at the right time with the right people working for the right purpose.  Continuing with this trust and purpose, somehow I gradually awakened to the next opportunity in my “Life After Mom” journey.  I knew I wanted to work with kids on the brink of young adulthood who needed extra support.  So I began applying for jobs with local school districts as a Special Education Paraprofessional.  What luck and joy I had when a local middle school contacted me for an interview in early August.  I am now employed there and part of another team of inspiring individuals I am learning so much from.  And I have the privilege to connect with young people on a daily basis, meeting them where they are and trying my best to support and help them learn.  I am beyond grateful to have this new purpose in my life.

Recently, when strolling the bathroom aisle at Kohl’s, I realized I hadn’t given myself the luxury of a really thirsty and plush bath towel in many years.  So I bought 2 cream colored ones, something a Mom knows never to do with kids around because they’d be destroyed in days.  Another thing about the plush towels:  I just want them for myself but I haven’t explicitly communicated this to my husband.  Occasionally, in his morning haze and rush to work, he grabs one and I find myself feeling territorial and angry – about a towel!  Here’s my takeaway from the hidden meaning behind a newly liberated Mom and her plush towel anger issues:  it’s a small luxury just for me that I am not expected to share with anyone.  Ready to laugh out loud?  After 21 years of nurturing my family, I just want to be asked if they can use my plush towel!  I feel ridiculous about all the power I have given these towels in my psychological life and my family doesn’t even know it!

Moving forward in life after full-time parenting requires a sense of humor.  I appreciate the sense of belonging and acceptance I have at the middle school where I am working.  It’s building my skills, resilience and confidence.  No matter what age, we all need each other to build strength.  And plush towels.  We all need at least one just for ourselves.

Happy Holidays, friends, and may 2020 bring you an abundance of joy, new adventures and plush towels.

Overnight Parental Metamorphosis

 

My son, my second child, just left the house for his Senior Year of High School finals.  I know this day is a major rite of passage.  So I go to my basement and retrieve a few fragments of his and his sister’s childhood from the big box of grade school papers I have kept all these years.  I am that Mom.  The one who frames art projects and puts every lost tooth in a ziplock bag.  These memories are my treasures.

You don’t get to choose many of the experiences your children will have outside your four walls and nothing prepares you for the disappointments the world will heap upon them – you can only hope that your love will be the cushion your child needs to bounce back and return to the world of unexpected experiences the following day.

As a child, Motherhood and writing were my true callings.  I wrote plays and each afternoon baked goodies in my Easy Bake oven before picking my imaginary kids up on my bicycle riding up and down my long driveway and talking to them.  As an adult, my life has luckily pretty much mirrored what I always dreamed and imagined motherhood would be.  Except the joy I have felt over the beauty of children’s innocence and unfaltering love was deeper than anything I had ever experienced.  And the anguish over not being able to solve a child’s heartache with a bowl of ice cream and a hug more harsh than any adult experience I had ever known.

The most unexpected delight from mothering a girl and a boy has been the gift of being the guardian of the gentle unfolding of their hearts in this world.  Being a parent at our house has often meant inviting the outside world to our table.  The way my children embraced our Little Brother when we were matched as a Family in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was loving and open-hearted.  They were open and accepting of the experience and shared our abundance of love, food, toys and fun with him without urging by me or their Dad.  And the outside adventures their hearts led our family to were beyond any planned playdate or experience I could have ever mapped out.  When our daughter told us at age 8 she wanted to be a competitive cheerleader, we set off on 2 years of driving hundreds of miles each week and thousands of 8-counts and sassy faces and moves to impress judges at competitions.  She already had grit, determination and focus.  The competitive sport just gave her an outlet, and her overwhelmed Mom was grateful for that.

My husband will faint in disbelief when he reads this, but I am grateful to have lived in the country on 32 acres for part of our kids’ childhood, in particular, the formative part.  They learned how to occupy themselves on long, windy, hot summer days without constant monitoring or activities.  Families enjoyed campfires, storytelling and music in the evenings and our son became a huge fan of the annual music festival that took place 1 mile from our back door.  To this day, his favorite smell is smoke from a campfire and as a young man, our house has become the headquarters for his friends to linger, laugh and talk into the night by a simple campfire.  Our daughter honed her writing skills and our many 8-hour car trips to visit family in St. Louis were a great source of inspiration.  Here she writes about the “Throwing Up Spring Break” of 2006 which was preceded by the “greatest day” of our 6-year-old son’s life at Disney on Ice.

Although today officially marks a transition from parenting children to young adults, and my heart is somewhat tender with wistful memories of those early days, I look forward to the next chapter – one that has already begun with my daughter – of witnessing, supporting, validating and loving the young adults my children become.

These 2 are my treasures and they belong to the world now, not me.  That’s both the most painful and proud reality of parenting:  these children gifted to us are born to fly.  Instead of planning the next week to make sure I am available for sporting events or other activities they love, I am, even as I write this, officially promoted to Witness.  I don’t have to referee their journey anymore.  Another Mom recently said, “You go from parent to consultant overnight.”  It might take me a few boxes of tissue to make the transition.  Each tear will be worth it.

Now I get to see who they invite to our table.

When Our Time Was Our Time

I’ve been in a “season of remembering” and feeling grateful lately, after a cold, harsh winter and a major health setback.  During this time, I have had countless ideas for blog posts but we are experiencing a time in our family when all computers are nearly dead and also I need to learn much more about technology than I want in order to reach the “next level” of blog writing.  So the ideas and creative impulses come and go and I have done nothing.

Until this morning, looking out at the lovely grass and listening to the birds as Spring begins to unfold, I started remembering how connected our family had the privilege of being to the seasons when my kids were young.  My husband and I intentionally semi-stepped off the grid of urban life and uprooted our young family from the city to a country setting.  At the time, all I can remember is wanting to have a simpler life with fewer distractions and outside intrusions but we didn’t have many specific ideas about what our “country life” would feel like beyond that.  The lessons came for us, many of them surprisingly difficult and unpleasant, yet we know, looking back, it was absolutely the right choice to make for our children.

This morning I started remembering all the unstructured, wild fun we had together when we lived in the country.  We’d take adventurous walks on our land and the kids would get filthy dirty without worrying about being clean or “ready” for the next obligation on our busy calendar because there wasn’t much of a calendar to worry about at all.  Just time, nature, freedom, each other, the weather, the critters, and the expectations of enjoying one carefree day after the next.  So I guess what I am saying is country life gave our family a framework we were craving that didn’t exist in a city:  some land, some time, some freedom – to enjoy life with youngsters unbothered by schedules and timetables and expectations.  That’s exactly, as it turns out, what we all had.  Let me tell you in one word what that life felt like:  glorious.  It took returning to the city and hearing from parents we must contact the “nanny” to coordinate “play date” schedules for me to appreciate how golden our lives in the country had been.  It was isolating at times and occasionally boredom set in.  But all you had to do was wait for the next spectacular sunset or sunrise to unfold and rest beneath the quiet (unless it was tornado season) heavens to remember what we had was very special.

I recently heard my daughter describe in great detail what the sky looked and felt like out in the country minutes before a big storm.  That memory is part of her and it will stay with her for life.  Unless you have spent a considerable amount of time on the prairie and its open skies, you’ll never understand what she meant when she told her friend about that sudden quiet, green-turning-to-black sky that happens right before a big storm.  We took shelter during those times in our basement and in each other.  We weren’t worried about which activities might be cancelled because of the inconvenience of the weather.  The weather was part of our lived experience.

As a Mother, your kids reach college age and you might start looking back to reassure yourself you gave them what they needed.  I am fortunate that I didn’t have to worry about much beyond fun and safe experiences on our land when they were little.  And I can already see those early years have shaped the young adults they have become.  After all, it takes a lot of mud puddles and unstructured play to build a competent adult.  Thank goodness we had plenty.

 

 

I’m Grateful for Check-Ins

It’s that time of year again where I struggle with the accurate spelling of “mantel.”  Or is it “mantle”?  Like “Capitol” and “capital,” this distinction in spelling gnaws at me (in a good way, I suppose).  In any case, as you can see, my mantel is doing just fine.  And so am I .  Thanks to check-ins from many unexpected friends and caring neighbors.  And of course, my constant therapy buddies, Pudgey and Vanilla.

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There is something about the month of December that always leaves me feeling warm, loved and grateful.  It’s not just the ordinary pre-Holiday buzzing around that sustains me.  In fact, it is the opposite.  I like the quiet, reflective times of December and I defiantly make them a priority.  I started reading about “minimalism” a few years ago (check out Joshua Becker’s becomingminimalist.com and the excellent writings and Netflix documentary based on the thinking of Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, theminimalists.com).

More than anything, studying the principles of minimalism has offered space and support in my thoughts and lifestyle these past few years to begin a transformation that has led to the greatest clarity and personal satisfaction of my life.  I don’t need more “stuff,” I need less clutter.  I don’t need more “fake friends,” I need a small circle of amazing friends who check-in with me.

Quite unexpectedly, I left a great job this month and immediately became completely helpless  to a very painful sciatic joint “situation.”  I’ve been knocked off my horse and there’s very little I can do about it.  Yet I feel joyful.  I have abundance.  I see goodness.  I am hopeful.  And my small circle of amazing “check-in” friends and family are exactly where I want and need them to be.  Lovingly offering kindness and ready to ease the pain of loneliness or regret or whatever my ailment of the moment happens to be.

For whatever totally undeserved reason, I have received the gift of loyal friendship and support of friends I was close to twenty and thirty years ago back in my life recently.  Old friends are the most comforting treasure in the world.  One glance or utterance can unfold memories, laughter and complete understanding between old friends that gives meaning and purpose to my humanity in the here and now.  Just yesterday, I reconnected with Shelley, a pal from my twenty-something, unmarried, professional days over lunch.  We are both married, in our fifties now and navigating raising teenagers, nurturing marriages of twenty-plus years, and learning to laugh at our common mid-life physical and emotional challenges.  She texted me first thing this morning:

“I’m so very proud and impressed with all your personal accomplishments!  You don’t give yourself enough GRACE!”

My dears, when a friend who knows you inside and out says these beautiful words to you, I don’t care how or when or in what format, you are LUCKY.  You are enough.  You make a difference.  And you are certainly loved and appreciated.

Like the beautiful fresh greenery another dear friend recently draped across my mantle (or is it mantel? More amazingly, she did it without duct tape!), life is full of simple joys that can be overlooked if you don’t intentionally slow down.  Check-in with your soul on a regular basis and feed it with acceptance, inspiration, a cup of tea, a conversation with an old friend, or a friendly chat with the neighbor walking their dog down the street.  These are the gifts I am grateful for this December, regardless of what packages happen to end up under my tree.

I hope that 2019 brings you lots of positive “check-ins” from loving sources you have encountered and nurtured throughout your life.  A check-in doesn’t have to be lavish – just a few simple words to express what you’re feeling in the moment are all that another person needs to feel supported and ready for a new day.

I dedicate this to all my check-in friends of 2018 and look forward to growing that number in the coming year: Shelley, Pam, Mary, Melissa, Vicki, Vickie, Victoria, Jennifer, Jeanne, Sherry, Stevie, Johanna, Christine, Susanna, Malin, Kit, Laurie, Kelly, Carol, Lincoln, Rob, Mark, Alex, Julie, Susan, Erin, Jenny, Carmen, Alejandre, Ann, Linda, JoEllen, Sarah, Mike, Gwyneth, Bill, Caryl, Sheila, Isa and Mario.

Merry Christmas, friends.

6 Risks Worth Taking

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I used to believe that trusting the Universe was foolish,  After all, what’s a good mind worth if you’re just going to throw logic away and believe everything will work out okay?  It’s taken 52 years and a heap of effort to discover that happy people are trusting people – doesn’t make them stupid or less worthy of a good life – it is simply a fact.  Marshall Crenshaw has a song, “Cynical Girl,” about a girl who “harbors no illusions and she’s worldly-wise.”  I pretended I was that girl for a very long time.  It was boring and I missed out on so many adventures – including failures – because I chose the safety of a cynical attitude.

When I chose sobriety in 2015 I had no idea I was responding to an invitation from the Universe to trust and live.  Everything that happened in my life before I chose sobriety felt like either a punishment or reward instead of simply life.  Giving up a chemical dependence meant surrendering to the illusion that I had any power whatsoever over what happened to me and those I loved.  That’s frightening!  But I also discovered that my husband and I had been risk-takers all along.  We were living and thriving in spite of minor scrapes and bruises along the way.  It’s weird when you stop numbing yourself from pain because it’s almost like you start expecting painful experiences without fear or dread.  Once you accept what is, the energy that went into numbing and denial and supporting beliefs that no longer serve you is free and available to use.  And life gets fun again, even the messy parts.

So, here is a short list of 6 messy risks I have taken (all of them affecting my family, so I give them lots of credit) that have been worth the short-term pain:

  1. Change careers even after you have an established one – mostly my husband has done this (a couple of times!) and I have been the “best supporting” character, but I have done a smaller version of this myself.  After raising kids, I have had a series of very low paying and stressful jobs that have all provided experience and skills leading to the satisfying “big” job I am in today, at exactly the moment I am ready for it. But also, THIS BLOG.  Cheeky Street started out as what I thought was the pursuit of a new career but has become something so much more important to me.  It’s a creative outlet for me, plain and simple.  I am proud of it and happy to let it just be without pushing it to grow into the next wildly successful online endeavor in the history of the world.  It meets a need in my life and that’s good enough for me.
  2. Connect with new and different people you haven’t been in contact with – it’s all part of learning about the open-heartedness “thing”  I have been given the chance to build a relationship with a first cousin I never knew growing up – and her family – and it’s been the sweetest journey.  My cousin reached out to me for a connection and taking the time to discover a part of my family I might have never known is nothing short of a miracle.  It’s just beautiful and my gratitude for this opportunity overflows.
  3. Get off anti-depressants – This will not be the case for everyone, but I am one of the fortunate people who once held the belief I would always need pharmaceutical “support.”  I have had the good fortune to work with a psychologist who supports the belief that we can learn to manage our emotions and life without taking anti-depressants.  After 25 years of believing a pill was managing my emotions, I am completely off all forms of chemical “therapy” and feeling happy, healthy and capable of handling life sans pharmaceuticals.
  4. Trust your child’s journey – Without betraying his privacy, I will just say my son has had an unconventional experience with traditional education and I have learned to respect and trust his instincts as well as advocate for him within an educational system that still barely tolerates kids who are different.
  5. Ignore criticism from people who haven’t been where you’re going.  As a former miserable practitioner of people-pleasing, permission-asking, approval-seeking behavior, this is huge.  If they AIN’T doing what you’re doing then why do you care what they think?  Keep moving forward.
  6. Sell the Baby Grand Piano – we literally did do this in order to catch up on some bills and pay for a nice vacation to Lake Michigan, but I am also speaking metaphorically.  Don’t be afraid to let go of things that are weighing you down from the past, especially if getting rid of them will provide something valuable for your future.
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By Cleo Wade

Cleo Wade is a newly discovered (by me, anyway), poet and Millenial Muse.  I love reading her work, just as I love interacting with and learning from today’s young people. They aren’t blindly pursuing the things my generation valued without first examining the true costs to their mental health, the community and environment.  I find them all very refreshing and look forward to learning more from this younger generation.  They give me hope for a kinder world committed to social and economic justice.  Turning the world over to the next generation is just a natural next step in my list of “risks worth taking.”  How grateful I am to have had the luxury of choosing each risk. Every single one.

 

 

A Gentleman in a Turbulent World

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This is a post I have been thinking about for over 2 months but this week provides the perfect backdrop to what I want to talk about:  the characteristics of a gentleman.  Specifically, the man I married and had children with.  As a young woman, the things I loved about my husband hit all the “marriage material” marks:  well-educated, hard- working, sweet, funny and eager to have a family. After 22 years of marriage, the single trait that stands out above all others has nothing to do with personality and everything to do with character:  my husband is a gentleman.  He can be trusted to consistently be fair, loving and even-tempered.  He treats people with respect, no matter how he feels about them.  And he never ever, not once, expected the world to hand him anything he wasn’t willing to work for.

When my Dad passed away, his best friend shared something about him that I wish I had known and been able to process as I grew into adulthood and tried to understand the man he was.  His friend told me that, more than anything, my Dad was excited about having been accepted to Law School as a young man.  It was his dream that, unfortunately, never came to be.  Family obligations changed his fate and my Dad, ever the gentleman, honored his commitments and took care of his family instead of pursuing his dream.  I found this out exactly one day after he died and for me, this shred of information explained the unspoken questions I had about my Dad for 45 years.  Because he was a “man of the 1950’s,” I suppose it wasn’t considered appropriate or even relevant to talk about his dreams – he just got up every day and took care of his family.  He could have been a real resentful jerk about his fate but chose to be a gentleman.  That’s why I fell in love with my husband, I understand now.

I want our children to see their Dad through my eyes as they become adults and that’s really what this post is about.  I want them to know absolutely without a doubt that:

  • You are the Center of your Dad’s world – there is nothing he wouldn’t do to give you love, self-assurance, creativity, hope and excitement about the things you can do in this world with your one life;
  • Your Dad is often incorrectly mistaken as meek and mild because he has a gentle temperament but nothing could be further from the truth.  He is a fighter to the core and he’s overcome many personal and career obstacles fighting for you and our family.  Your Mom quits things – your Dad never does;
  • When other people are bragging and bullying their way to temporary, “better” positions in life, you can find your Dad quietly plugging away in his corner of the world, doing hundreds of small things that gentlemen do:  honoring promises; finishing projects long after your Mom has given up because it’s the right thing to do; staying focused on what needs to be done today to reach that distant dream in the future instead of procrastinating (again like your Mom); being kind to people who may have hurt him or someone he loves instead of puffing out his chest and threatening them in order to make himself feel better (you know I do this!).

When your Dad is angry, he finds a way to resolve it and move forward because he knows in and of itself, anger will destroy everything in his path.  Your Dad, the Gentleman, is a saver, a lover, and a person who takes what is before him today and makes something that lasts into the future.  In his quietly determined way, your Dad is the strongest person I know.  And he has never once bragged about that.

My hope for you children is that you will offer this wounded world some of your Dad’s fair-minded, even-tempered gentleness.  It will serve you and those around you very well for the rest of your lives.

The Path that Found Me

My husband and son are out of town on a big adventure for several days and my daughter and I are relaxing, enjoying some down time.  As is my habit when I have a little extra mental space and time, I go digging through old boxes in search of old letters, pictures, tokens from my past.  Though I have seen this photo so many times this morning it startled me:  she’s so young and fresh, like the strawberry she’s posing with next to her friend.  At 52, it is wonderful to have arrived at an age where I can recall a story for nearly every little scrap I have saved in my “special box” over the years.  Here’s what I remember about this picture.

The friend I am with was a special one for a short time.  We were both recently out of Graduate School and beginning our career paths, though mine was in the nonprofit world and her’s was health care administration.  Her career-obsessed, interrupting, impatient colleague drove us to the dinner we are enjoying in the photo.  I was half-heartedly pursuing what I thought would be a good “career path” for myself, though 50 percent of the people I met who were serious “career-oriented” people were way too intense for me.

Silly then, sillier now.  That’s me.  But I was ashamed of it then.  Looking at this sweet girl in the picture, I want to love her and reassure her that the right Path will find her. That it ultimately does not matter in life who you impress at meetings or how high you are willing to climb to earn a career.  The rude colleague of my friend ultimately achieved the highest honors in her career and she received accolades, awards and respect.  Good for her.  My “non-path path” has been glorious, sometimes painful but always given me the right kind of experience and space I needed to grow.

My son brilliantly summed up for me the most valuable part of any journey when he exclaimed his woes about his second day of kindergarten on the car ride home:  “My day was horrible!  The teacher only gave us 7 minutes to daydream!”  This kid is so my kid.  To resist externally imposed structure so resolutely at age 5 was both a blessing and curse for him and I have personally witnessed the toll an absurdly rigid school routine can take on his soul.  My advice to him and all you other free spirits out there:  trust yourself enough to know that the choices you make in life will yield abundance in many beautiful ways.  You may not choose a path that is laden with financial rewards and career milestones worthy of publishing in a business journal.  But this much I know:  THE WORLD NEEDS DAYDREAMERS!

So the path that found me was the one that was inside my heart as a youngster.  I loved getting on my bicycle and playing “carpool” with my imaginary children.  Unfortunately, as a woman in the eighties and nineties, it wasn’t very cool to admit that all you really wanted to do was “just be a Mom.”  But that’s what I have done and it has been my greatest joy in life.  I have a daughter, too, and she’s a creative genius and force of nature.  And I married a guy who does my favorite thing in the world:  he writes great love notes.  This one popped up when I was treasure hunting in my special box today.  We had been married exactly 5 weeks, I was undergoing testing for terrible allergies, and my guapo half Argentinean new groom wrote me these words:Love Note

My life has been rich and the journey becomes sweeter with age, as anybody over 50 understands, because we know each day is so precious.  I am so happy I decided to go through that box today and even happier that the Path I always dreamed of found me.